Do You Know ? Mus­lim Women: 7 Things That Might Sur­prise You

The Miracle - - Women World - Dr. Moyra Dale

They’re Not So Dif­fer­ent

Mus­lim women are one of the most talked-about groups in the world. Yet most of Mus­lim women I know are very dif­fer­ent from the stereo­types. It should be ob­vi­ous, yet Mus­lim women are of­ten pre­sented as dif­fer­ent, ex­otic, or even a sym­bol of back­ward­ness. A Mid­dle East­ern sec­ondary teacher urged me, “Tell women in the West that Mus­lim women are like them, in their fam­ily and com­mu­nity, their life and work. There are ed­u­cated Mus­lim women, doc­tors, lawyers, teach­ers, work­ers—we’re all the same.” Per­son­ally, I find our com­mon fe­male­ness gives me a shared bond with Mus­lim women ev­ery­where. I’ve had some great times hang­ing out with Mus­lim friends and en­joy be­ing with them. In the west you see women sit­ting to­gether in cof­fee shops, lean­ing for­ward, in­tently lis­ten­ing, talk­ing about re­la­tion­ships, fam­ily, clothes and cook­ing. Mus­lim women talk about ex­actly the same things when they get to­gether. It’s a com­mon lan­guage of women world-wide. I at­tended a mosque women’s pro­gram in the Mid­dle East for a cou­ple of years, and much of the con­tent was sim­i­lar to what I’d hear from women in many church dis­cus­sions— bring­ing up chil­dren and tak­ing time for prayer and read­ing (their) scrip­tures. They also talked about how to live godly lives in the pres­sure of the world, or with spouses, who weren’t re­li­gious.

A Sense of Fash­ion Might be In­her­ent

Many wear the hi­jab (head cov­er­ing), all kinds of ver­sions of it—and many don’t. While hi­jab can mean ‘veil­ing’ or ‘screen­ing,’ we shouldn’t let it screen us from friend­ship. I find that on pub­lic trans­port in the west, women in hi­jab are of­ten more ready to chat with me than women in west­ern dress. West­ern women are usu­ally more fo­cused on their phones or tablets. Dress choices that may look in­tim­i­dat­ing to us are usu­ally about mod­esty. And Mus­lim women are very of­ten fash­ion-con­scious. For ex­am­ple, in Cairo women want to wear bright, match­ing colours and pat­terns of dress and scarf. In places where most women seem to be wear­ing look-alike full-length dark coats, they give care­ful at­ten­tion to dif­fer­ences of style, ma­te­rial and but­tons, and sub­tler colour vari­a­tions. In Asia I watched TV pro­grams show­ing how to tie head­scarves as trendy fash­ion state­ments. And in womenonly space, the most con­ser­va­tive black over­gar­ments may be taken off to show de­signer wear un­der­neath.

They Can be Power Bro­kers

I some­times hear Mus­lim women de­scribed as pow­er­less and op­pressed, but that isn’t the full pic­ture. Even in very con­ser­va­tive so­ci­eties, if women face re­stric­tions in pub­lic ar­eas, men also face re­stric­tions on their en­try, and move­ment in women’s do­mes­tic space, es­pe­cially be­yond their own im­me­di­ate fam­i­lies. Women’s sta­tus can of­ten change sig­nif­i­cantly over a life­time. A young bride liv­ing in the home of her hus­band’s par­ents may not have much power. How­ever, when she has a son, and when her son grows up and gets mar­ried, that changes. A friend who had worked in the Mid­dle East told me that when­ever any­thing needed do­ing, or pa­per­work signed, they would ask the women, and it would hap­pen. Older women, par­tic­u­larly mothers, can be sig­nif­i­cant power bro­kers in an ex­tended fam­ily.

A Deep Con­cern for Pu­rity

This in­cludes moral pu­rity. Of­ten they are wor­ried about the risks of ex­po­sure to the sex­ual free­doms of west­ern cul­ture, and may as­sume it char­ac­ter­izes all the west­ern women they meet. Feel free to share your own con­cern about liv­ing ac­cord­ing to bib­li­cal stan­dards in the face of pres­sure from the con­tem­po­rary cul­ture. It also in­cludes phys­i­cal pu­rity. Phys­i­cal im­pu­rity pre­vents Mus­lims from car­ry­ing out their ba­sic re­li­gious du­ties of prayer, fast­ing, read­ing the Qur’an. Care­ful wash­ing rit­u­als are the means to re­store pu­rity. And de­filed con­di­tions af­fect women much more than men (any kind of emis­sion from the body, whether solid, liq­uid or gas, is a cause of im­pu­rity). So all Mus­lims be­come im­pure and must wash to gain pu­rity ev­ery day. More­over, women be­come im­pure for a week each month. This is very dif­fer­ent to west­ern un­der­stand­ing. But the peo­ple in Je­sus’ day con­stantly thought about pu­rity and re­quire­ments for wash­ing be­fore re­li­gious du­ties. It means a lot to tell our friends about Mark 5, where Je­sus heals from un­clean spir­its, and how he isn’t de­filed by the woman with the flow of blood. Nor is he un­clean from touch­ing a dead body (ac­cord­ing to Jewish rules of the time). Rather, he heals a woman, gives life to a dead girl, and pu­rity of heart to all of us.

“Mama’s Boy” isn’t an In­sult in Is­lam


many Mus­lim so­ci­eties, a stronger re­la­tional bond is one be­tween mother and son. A’isha, Muham­mad’s favourite wife, and source of many quotes that shape Mus­lim life and so­ci­ety, is re­ported as say­ing: “The per­son who has the great­est right over the woman is her hus­band, and the per­son who has the great­est right over the man is his mother.” Mar­riage ties are of­ten not as strong as fam­ily blood ties. The mother-son re­la­tion­ship may be a more sig­nif­i­cant line of in­flu­ence than the hus­band-wife one. When I was en­cour­ag­ing young women to come to lit­er­acy classes, it was more of­ten mothers or sisters-in-law (not hus­bands), who might pre­vent them from at­tend­ing.

Fam­ily Wel­fare is a Ma­jor Con­cern

Mus­lim women of­ten carry much of the re­spon­si­bil­ity for fam­ily wel­fare—health of fam­ily mem­bers, har­mony in re­la­tion­ships, and suc­cess of chil­dren. Th­ese can be deep daily con­cerns for women, es­pe­cially in coun­tries with­out good health fa­cil­i­ties or ed­u­ca­tion, fac­ing is­sues of drought or war. Women may be more anxious about th­ese ar­eas than about the­o­log­i­cal is­sues or ques­tions. So they are very con­scious of the many neg­a­tive forces that can af­fect them and their fam­i­lies. In some places this in­cludes fear of oth­ers’ envy, or the ‘evil eye’ that can bring bad luck. I have friends with PhD’s from West­ern uni­ver­si­ties, who use a blue bead for pro­tec­tion against the evil eye. Fear may also ex­tend be­yond this life. A com­mon quote from Muham­mad says, “I saw thec ma­jor­ity of in­hab­i­tants of hell were women.”

Women Like to Tell Stores

In con­ver­sa­tions, sto­ries are of­ten used to make a point or solve a prob­lem. Shehrezade was the in­tel­li­gent and re­source­ful woman in “A Thou­sand And One Nights” who used sto­ries to change the mind of the king, save her own life, thou­sands of other women. We can tell sto­ries about Je­sus, any place, any time, es­pe­cially about the many women he cared for. Mus­lim women, like us, are im­age-bear­ers of God, so we love them as peo­ple cre­ated and loved by God. In all our lives and cul­tures there are things that fall short of what God has made us to be. So we pray for them, as for our­selves, for God’s e re­demp­tion in Christ of all that falls Source: short of His glory. Source: www.zwe­mer­

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